UK Committee Argues Impact of Cladding Tax
Parliament is at odds over a levy and taxes that are to be placed on the United Kingdom’s construction industry. While the money raised is earmarked for cladding remediation in high-rise buildings, some say that those who’ve used the correct materials all along are being penalized by the new measures and the added costs will make their way down to home buyers and cut the availability of affordable housing.
At a virtual parliamentary meeting of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government at the beginning of the month, Gary Porter, building safety spokesperson for the body that represents council, aired these grievances.
“The development industry will just say, ‘if we have got to pay an extra tax on these buildings, that gives us less money on the building site, the site is less viable, so we’re going to give you less affordable homes as a result of that.’ That will impact on the number of affordable homes being built,’” Porter said.
He went on to say that the government “should have gone after the crooks and the rogues first and then sorted out everything afterwards” as a reference to those who have built high-rise buildings with less-than fire-resistant cladding.
“At least then the principle would be established that if people do bad things, they’ve got to pay the price for it. At the moment, we’ve got a system where people who do good things are paying the price for it and the people who do bad things are still walking around scot-free. It can’t be right.”
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick unveiled the plan last month, which included the taxes as well as announcing other government funding and measures to try to boost the housing market.
The plan involved a 5 billion-pound investment from the government into building safety, that aims to ensure that no leaseholder will pay more than 50 pounds a month toward the removal and remediation of unsafe cladding.
The Gateway 2 developer levy will be targeted and apply when developed seek permission to develop certain high-rise buildings in England. In addition, the new tax, which will be formally introduced in 2022, is for the residential property development sector and is hoping to raise at least 2 billion pounds over the next 10 years.
Cladding Ban Background
In December 2018, the U.K. announced a ban on combustible materials, more than a year after London’s Grenfell Tower fire, which killed more than 70 people. Former housing secretary James Brokenshire announced that under the new legislation, combustible materials would not be permitted in the exterior walls for new buildings more than 18 meters (59 feet) tall. Those buildings include homes, hospitals, residential care facilities, dormitories and other student accommodations.
That ban limits the use of materials to products that achieve a European fire-resistance rating of Class A1 or A2. The legislation also cleared up what exactly the government meant by an “exterior wall,” defining it as an external wall as anything “located within any space forming part of the wall.” It also includes any decoration or finishes applied to external surfaces, windows or doors; roof pitches at an angle of more than 70 degrees; balconies and devices for deflecting sunlight and solar panels.
The policy also prohibits the use of timber materials in the external wall of buildings in those parameters as well, which will stop many project in their tracks, according to the Architects’ Journal, referring to developers using the cross-laminated timber construction method.
The materials ban took effect Dec. 21, 2018, but in December 2019 part of the ban was overhauled following a lawsuit by the British Blind & Shutter Association. (The court rules that the ban should not have included materials used on shutters, blinds and other products designed to reduce a building’s heat gain.)
Concerns on the cladding ban only including high-rises were raised after a Nov. 15, 2019, fire in Bolton, U.K., in a student housing block referred to as “The Cube.”
At the end of January 2020, Jenrick put forth new measures with the goal to move “faster and further to improve building safety,” including:
At the time, the proposal was met with praise from industry members, such as the Royal Institute of British Architects.
Then, a year later, Jenrick unveiled the new regulatory body that is tasked with overseeing the safety of construction materials.
“The regulator for construction products will have the power to remove any product from the market that presents a significant safety risk and prosecute any companies who flout the rules on product safety,” the announcement read.
“This follows recent testimony to the Grenfell Inquiry that shone a light on the dishonest practice by some manufacturers of construction products, including deliberate attempts to game the system and rig the results of safety tests.”
Jenrick also noted that the regulator will also have “strong enforcement powers,” including the ability to conduct its own product testing.